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Winner of nine straight matches, the No. 5 USC women's tennis team has the Pac-12 title within reach as the Trojans hit the road for more conference play this week. Fresh of two shining wins over Cal and Stanford last weekend, the Women of Troy will take on the only other undefeated Pac-12 team to date when USC (17-2, 6-0 Pac-12) visits No. 22 Arizona State (15-1, 5-0) at 1:30 p.m. on Friday (April 5) in Tempe. The Trojans will then turn to Tucson to take on No. 74 Arizona (9-9, 1-4) at 12 p.m. on Saturday (April 6).
ITA RANKING UPDATES
The last set of 2013 Campbell/ITA national team rankings were unfurled on April 2, with the USC women now ranked No. 5 in the land. USC was No. 4 from Jan. 3-Feb. 18 and was No. 6 in the next cycle before taking a loss to No. 7 Cal that dropped the Trojans out of the top-10 for just one week. The latest individual rankings were released March 26, with sophomore Sabrina Santamaria -- once ranked No. 1 in the nation in singles -- still locked at No. 2 in the land. Senior Danielle Lao now stands at No. 7 to hold strong in the top-10. Sophomore Zoë Scandalis is currently No. 27, followed by fellow sophomores No. 70 Gabriella DeSimone and No. 116 Giuliana Olmos. In doubles, USC's top guns Santamaria and Kaitlyn Christian continue to reign supreme as the nation's No. 1 team. USC also has No. 36 DeSimone/Scandalis and No. 44 Lao/Pulido locked in the national doubles rankings.
This month's USC-UCLA showdown has been moved from its originally scheduled date. To catch the crosstown rivalry clash --which could well determine the Pac-12 Championship -- come to Marks Stadium at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 18. The singles portion of the match will begin at 3 p.m. and will be televised by Pac-12 Networks, and there will be a food truck for USC fans!
USC made serious power moves to the top of the Pac-12 ladder last week, beating No. 13 California 6-1 and No. 14 Stanford by the same score for two dominating victories that kept the Trojans undefeated in conference play. USC first served up some payback to No. 13 California, handing the last team to beat the Trojans a 6-1 loss. The Women of Troy charged up for a strong stand in doubles, breaking open a tight start with a push to a sweep to pocket the first point of the day. The wind in the Trojans' sailed carried five Women of Troy to wins in their first sets. On court one, #2 Sabrina Santamaria finished off #6 Annet Schutting with a 6-3, 6-1 decision almost before a couple of her teammates were through their first sets. Santamaria's win -- her 16th straight singles victory -- pushed USC ahead 2-0, with several Trojans also seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. At the No. 5 spot, it was #70 Gabriella DeSimone who rounded up the next point for the Trojans. Over on court two, USC's #7 Danielle Lao dug herself out from down an early break in the second set and won the last five games of her match with #59 Lynn Chi to tally the clincher with a 6-4, 6-3 decision. Also notching singles wins in the match to round out the 6-1 final were Giuliana Olmos and Kaitlyn Christian at the No. 4 and 6 positions, respectively. Up against Stanford, which had just beaten highly ranked UCLA the previous day, USC pinned up a decisive 6-1 victory, clinched by DeSimone at the No. 5 spot. It was the first win over the Cardinal at Marks Stadium for the Women of Troy since 2009, although USC does now boast back-to-back victories over the Cardinal after also upsetting Stanford in last year's NCAA Quarterfinals. The Trojans came out of the gates guns a-blazing in doubles play, showing no signs of intimidation against the Cardinal pairings that had toppled UCLA the day before. USC's top guns Christian/Santamaria made an all-out sprint out of reach of Ahn/Gibbs on court one for an 8-1 win. Over at the No. 3 spot, USC's Lao/Olmos was also applying the pressure to Dillon/Hardebeck, coming through with the doubles-point clincher on an 8-3 win. Singles play saw a similarly spirited rally from the Women of Troy on several courts. Santamaria and Zoë Scandalis both pounded out 6-1 wins in their respective first sets, and DeSimone mirrored that from her spot on court five. Coming through with outside smoke was Kaitlyn Christian, who silenced Natalie Dillon in the second set for a 6-2, 6-0 win that bumped the Trojans up 2-0 in the match. Over at the No. 1 spot, #2 Santamaria picked up the pace for a solid 6-1, 6-4 win over #20 Nicole Gibbs to make it a 3-0 USC advantage on the scoreboard. The Trojans had their work cut out for them to bring home the clincher, but #70 DeSimone was up to the task. She took the pressure off her teammates in coming through with a tiebreaker in the second set against Ellen Tsay on court four. DeSimone grabbed the final four points of the breaker to ink the clincher for the Women of Troy on a 6-1, 7-6 (3) victory. Wrapping up wins for the 6-1 final decision for the Trojans were Lao and Scandalis on courts two and three, respectively. For her singles strength and clinching heroics, DeSimone was named Pac-12 Player of the Week -- making her the sixth Trojan to win the award this season.
The No. 22 Sun Devils are 15-1 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play after beating Washington 4-3 and WSU 7-0 last week. ASU has won 12 straight matches since taking its only loss of the year with a 4-3 loss to Miami during ITA Kick-Off Weekend. The Sun Devils have two players ranked nationally in singles: #23 Jacqueline Cako and #106 Desirae Krawczyk. In doubles, ASU has #40 Cako/Smith and #62 Krawczyk/Sahagun. USC is 48-22 all-time against ASU after posting two 6-1 wins over the Sun Devils last season -- first in Tempe at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend and then in Los Angeles during Pac-12 competition.
The No. 74 Wildcats are 9-9 overall and 1-4 in Pac-12 play after beating WSU 6-1 and losing to Washington 4-3 last week. The Wildcats have #64 Lacey Smyth ranked nationally in singles and no ranked doubles teams. USC is 46-15 all-time against Arizona after a 6-1 win over the Wildcats last season during Pac-12 competition.
USC matched the most dominant start to a season in program history -- set in 1982 with five consecutive shutout wins -- when the Trojans dished out back-to-back 7-0 sweeps of opponents on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. The 1982 Trojan team tallied 9-0 wins in its first five matches that year. In 2013, the USC women posted three 7-0 sweeps along with 6-0 and 4-0 decisions during the ITA Kick-Off Weekend to build up a hefty head of steam entering the ITA National Team Indoor Championships. There, the Trojans made a move into the quarterfinals with a 4-1 win over No. 12 Virginia. That broke up USC's stretch of shutout wins, and the Trojans would take their first loss of 2013 with a tight 4-3 defeat at the hands of No. 8 North Carolina. The Tar Heels would go on to win it all, taking the ITA Indoor title with a victory over UCLA in the final. USC, meanwhile, would find redemption in a solid 4-1 consolation match over No. 7 California, bringing USC's overall record to 7-1. At tournament's end, USC would land Danielle Lao on the ITA National Indoor All-Tournament Team for her strength at No. 1 singles, along with Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria on the team for No. 1 doubles.
D-LAO THE GIANT KILLER
A force to reckon with for the Trojans at the top of the lineup, senior Danielle Lao took down two top-10 opponents in singles play at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, opening the tournament with a bigtime upset of Virginia's #4 Julia Elbaba in straight sets. Ranked #10 in the nation at the time, Lao beat North Carolina's #28 Zoe De Bruycker in straight sets as well the next day, and then capped off the weekend with yet another straight-set upset in a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Cal's #7 Zsofi Susanyi to clinch USC's win over the Bears. In doubles, Lao went 2-1 with teammate Giuliana Olmos, including a clinching win over UNC's ranked pair. Lao's winning run kept the senior undefeated in dual-match singles play. For her winning prowess, Lao picked up her first career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 12. She's now ranked #7 in the land, holding a 24-4 overall singles record and a 17-1 mark in dual-match play thanks to an eight-match win streak.
USC captured the first two Pac-12 Player of the Week picks of 2013 with back-to-back honors going to Sabrina Santamaria and Giuliana Olmos. Santamaria secured her first career weekly award on Jan. 21 with her winning run to both the singles and doubles titles at the Freeman Memorial Tennis Championship. A week later, Olmos was playing in her first ITA Kick-Off Weekend and dominated her opponents to pick up her first career honor and USC's second straight Pac-12 Player of the Week win of 2013. The most recent Trojan to win the award is Zoë Scandalis, who was in full winning form in a busy week of three matches at USC. After holding her ground in a three-set singles win vs. Texas, Scandalis was near-perfect in her Pac-12 openers. She lost just one game in her two singles matches against Pac-12 players from Colorado and Utah. Scandalis was similarly powerful in doubles, combining forces with Gabriella DeSimone for three smooth wins to further spark the Trojans along to the three 7-0 sweeps of visiting teams last week. Scandalis currently stands 13-7 overall and 9-2 in dual-match play.
Freshman Ellie Yates won her sixth straight singles match to help get the Women of Troy back on a winning track with a 5-2 win at San Diego. For her winning efforts, Yates was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in her young Trojan career on March 5. Yates' straight-set victory from the No. 5 spot got USC up 3-0 on the host Toreros over the weekend. In doubles, she combined forces with Giuliana Olmos to serve up the point-clinching win with their 8-2 decision from the No. 3 spot. The winning weekend kept Yates undefeated at 7-0 in dual-match singles play. She is now 12-2 overall and 11-1 in dual-match play.
Two other women's doubles teams may have been able to win back-to-back ITA National Indoor Championships, but no one has done it as decisively as USC's Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria. In a morning title match in New York on Nov. 11, 2012, the two young Trojans successfully defend their 2011 championship with all-out domination of their opponents. A swift shutout crowned the two Women of Troy as the 2012 champs, making longtime friends Christian and Santamaria just the third team in history - and first since 1998 - to go back-to-back. In the title match, Christian and Santamaria rolled out an unheard-of 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Virginia's Nauta/Xi for a feat never before achieved in the final of the ITA National Indoors on either the women's or men's sides. The USC junior-sophomore combo now boasts four major titles together in just over one year as a Trojan tandem. Now with the back-to-back ITA National Team Indoor titles in hand, Christian and Santamaria are also the proud owners of the 2012 Pac-12 Doubles Championship and the 2012 ITA/ Riviera All-American Doubles Championship. Christian/Santamaria currently hold a perfect 25-0 record together this season. Santamaria also spent a cycle atop the singles rankings from Feb. 12-25. She now rides a 17-match singles win streak for a 26-3 overall record and 13-0 mark in dual-match play.
USC sophomore Sabrina Santamaria pulled some seriously successful double duty in Las Vegas, drumming up the singles and doubles titles at the Freeman Memorial Tennis Championship to also work her way to her first career honors as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Santamaria started the day by pairing up with her trusty doubles partner Kaitlyn Christian, and the nation's top doubles team slated two more opponents to win in the semis and final today to claim another championship. Later in the day, Santamaria struck out on her own and shocked the No. 2 seeded and #11 ranked Gina Suarez-Malaguti of UNC with a smooth 6-0, 6-1 victory in the singles championship. Christian and Santamaria started the day off right, beating a UCLA pair with an 8-4 semifinal victory over No. 3 seeded Bruins Dolehide/Montez to earn that trip to the title match. At the other side of the bracket, USC's Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido were also in a semifinal battle, but took an 8-2 loss to UNC's No. 2 seeded Dai/Kay. Christian/Santamaria would avenge that loss by their teammates with an 8-4 win over Dai/Kay in the final to ring up the Trojan duo's first title of the spring.
The USC women are led by three All-Americans. Senior Danielle Lao entered her senior campaign leading the pack at No. 14 in the nation in singles, with two more Women of Troy also standing tall in the top-20 to start 2013. Sophomore Sabrina Santamaria --- who reached the ITA Southwest Regional singles final for the second straight year in the fall -- sat at No. 17, along with sophomore Zoë Scandalis at No. 19. Also in the singles rankings to start was another USC sophomore, Gabriella DeSimone, who held her first career ITA ranking at No. 56 after her strong fall performance following up some big wins for the Trojans during the 2012 NCAA tournament.
The Women of Troy opened 2013 with a complete set of doubles tandems in the rankings. USC's vaunted junior-sophomore duo of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria remain locked in as the nation's No. 1 team. The winners of back-to-back ITA National Indoor doubles championships as well as the 2012 Pac-12 doubles title and the 2012 ITA/Riviera All-American champs, Christian/Santamaria are clearly the team to beat in 2013. That won't be easy, however, as they proved with a resounding 6-0, 6-0 shutout of their opponents in the title match of the ITA National Indoors, where the Trojans became the first team since 1998 to win back-to-back doubles crowns at the event. Packing even more punch into the lineup for 2013 were another two USC women's doubles pairs in the rankings. Sophomore combo Gabriella DeSimone and Zoë Scandalis ranked No. 13 in the land to start 2013, and ITA Southwest Regional champions Danielle Lao and Valeria Pulido --- the only seniors on the Trojan roster in 2013 -- stood at No. 40.
Last year, USC won a share of the Pac-12 Championship, finishing 8-1 in conference play before making a run to the NCAA Semifinals, thanks to a quarterfinal win over Stanford. The 24-4 finish for USC had the Trojans ranked No. 4 in the nation for USC's highest final ranking since 2006. At the Pac-12 Tournament, Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria won the Pac-12 Doubles Championship and would go on to earn the No. 4 seed into the NCAA Doubles Tournament. In the NCAA Singles Tournament, freshman Santamaria worked her way to All-American status with a run to the quarterfinals. She would finish the year with All-American honors for singles and doubles with Christian. Danielle Lao and Zoë Scandalis also earned All-American singles accolades. Scandalis was named the ITA National Player to Watch, and Christian and Santamaria were named to the ITA All-Star Team. In USC's first appearance in the NCAA Team Semifinals since 2006, the Trojans fell 4-3 to top-seeded rival UCLA. At the close of the tourney, Sabrina Santamaria earned NCAA All-Tournament Team honors at the No. 3 singles position, and Danielle Lao / Alison Ramos were also selected for the team at No. 3 doubles.